Dunderdale does damage control as electricity crisis subsides

Barb Sweet & James McLeod
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Premier Kathy Dunderdale made the rounds Monday afternoon, first vising the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro building to get a tour and thank workers, with TV cameras and media in tow; then she went across town to the Nalcor building to do the same thing, and speak to reporters again.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks with Newfoundland Power employees at Hydro Place in St. John’s Monday.
— Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

The message Monday was that things are slowly getting better, and by early evening, only about 1,000 customers were without power.

For the first time since Thursday, Newfoundland Power announced there would be no rolling blackouts in the evening to cope with high electricity demand.

Dunderdale was under fire for insisting the recent electricity disruptions — which began running last Thursday — don’t constitute a crisis for the province.

She has also been attacked by citizens and opposition politicians for focusing too much on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project and failing to protect the reliability of the current power system.

She insisted the province is not in crisis and the government is ticking along well — at least in the buildings that have electricity — but acknowledged some people are having a hard go of it.

“Our government agencies are functioning properly. Where there’s electricity, people are working. Our hospitals are working properly, and life is going on as normally as it possibly can for the bulk of the population,” she said. “However, there is a significant part of the population that is undergoing difficulties, extreme challenges. It is very frustrating. Some of them are definitely in crisis.”

Dunderdale and top officials at the province’s electrical utilities are still issuing calls for energy conservation wherever possible, but Monday’s media appearances seemed to be as much about batting back at her critics.

She said the Liberals and New Democrats criticizing her are contradicting what they’ve been saying for the past several years, when they questioned the increased demand for electricity, and the need for Muskrat Falls.

“The very people who are criticizing us from the opposition parties today were telling the people of the province last year that we were misleading them in terms of our forecast for load demand,” she said. “Today we’re being criticized because we didn’t move more quickly in approving Muskrat Falls and getting that piece of work started, and right up until sanction date, people were saying what’s the hurry. We heard that on a daily basis.”

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball has been publicly questioning Nalcor’s planning on grid infrastructure, and whether a third transmission line was needed from the Bay d’Espoir area to the Avalon Peninsula.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael has been calling for an inquiry.

Dunderdale dismissed Ball’s suggestion, and said the Public Utilities Board (PUB) would be able to examine a full report from Nalcor on the outage.

“The PUB will get all of this information. It will review (the report) and make its views on the matter known,” Dunderdale said. “I have absolute confidence in Nalcor. I have absolute confidence in Newfoundland Power, and I have absolute confidence in the PUB and the role they play.”

 

Getting by

But some people were losing confidence in Dunderdale as the situation wore on.

Rosalind Henstridge of Airport Heights was in Dominion on Stavanger Drive Monday shopping for supplies. Her cart had some cheese and crackers, canned meats, soup and other things she and her husband could cook outside on a butane stove. Henstridge said it’s not a diet she wants, but they had to do what they can to wait out the outage.

“She’s probably not sitting in the cold like we are," Henstridge said of the premier. “She’s not eating crap food like us.”

Nalcor president and CEO Ed Martin said he still has faith in the electrical system, but he understands if people don’t share that confidence.

“It’s a terrible thing that they’re going through. We’re maximizing our efforts in that light,” Martin said. “We’re confident in the system, but I have to recognize people may have some shaken confidence.”

He said he hopes to build that back over time.

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

bsweet@thetelegram.com

 

 

Organizations: Newfoundland Power, Public Utilities Board, Airport Heights

Geographic location: Dominion

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • ben
    January 09, 2014 - 15:29

    Did Dunkerdale or the CEOs of NL Power, Hydro and Nalcorhave to endure lack of power in their homes? Were they part of the Blackout... IS the premier able to answer that question?

  • Fred
    January 09, 2014 - 05:43

    People stop all your whining and complaining. No one person is responsible for this little blip in life. Life is not perfect . It has it's ups and downs. In a crisis everyone should pull together not point fingers. Next time be a little more prepared. I was without power so I switched to my emergency supply. I had lots of food and fuel on hand and now life is back to normal. The people who work to maintain our hydro supply are the experts who are highly trained and paid . The politicians take rely on their expertise to make the best decisions on our behalf to keep the hydro flowing . Give the Premier some slack. She didn't cause the hydro outage, nature did.

    • gpike
      January 09, 2014 - 18:00

      This was not caused by the weather. It was caused by the PC's decisions in 2010 to curtail the previously planned maintenance and upgrades to the generation systems because Muskrat Falls was given the preliminary go ahead. It was stated early on that it was a generation issue not a weather issue

    • gpike
      January 09, 2014 - 18:03

      This was not caused by the weather. It was caused by the PC's decisions in 2010 to curtail the previously planned maintenance and upgrades to the generation systems because Muskrat Falls was given the preliminary go ahead. It was stated early on that it was a generation issue not a weather issue

  • david
    January 07, 2014 - 10:57

    To expect anything like a heartfelt apology or with few high-level resignations is beyond dreaming in this place. But for Dunderdale to try to spin this fiasco, which has indirectly led to people's deaths, into an adverttsement for Muskrat Falls is unconscionable. The arrogance would make Hitler a fan.

  • Really Now
    January 07, 2014 - 10:57

    What Dunderdale fails to realize is that Muskrat Falls will not replace all the power that's currently generated using gas / diesel generators here on the island. It will do very little to curtail this crisis we are finding ourselves in as a province. Where was she when all this started? On vacation and out of the province but when asked point blank about it, she brushed off the comments. No shame on being on vacation Madam Premier, it is a shame when you ignore what the people are saying to you and have been saying to you for the last 2 years. You are criticizing the Liberals and the NDP yet your government has done nothing to show what you will do to ensure that the province has electricity well into the future. Muskrat Falls will provide for approximately 20% of the islands needs, where are the other 80% coming from? Answer that one!

  • saelcove
    January 07, 2014 - 10:35

    They are behind in snow clearing because they did not keep up with repairs sound like i have heard this before, so who is running this dog and pony show

  • Maurice E. Adams
    January 07, 2014 - 10:30

    Nalcor has said repeatedly that our recent peak demand was 35% higher than our 5-year average. To see how that statement compares with Nalcor's actual peak demand numbers from 2002 to 2013, go to www.vision2041.com

  • joesawyer
    January 07, 2014 - 10:20

    Interesting in that the same people who get all 'puffed' up in their importance / development of MF, take no responsibility for their failure to avoid the debacle of the last 4-5 days. SHAME!

  • Seal Club
    January 07, 2014 - 10:08

    The opposition are not contradicting their stance on Muskrat Falls (which is expected to increase generation capacity in 2017). They're asking why the reduced generation capacity existed this week, and what can be done to mitigate this issue today. Completely unrelated to Muskrat Falls.

  • Ben
    January 07, 2014 - 09:41

    So easy to condemn others when we didnt take any responsibility ourselves with being ready for a power outage. It is so stupid to blame this on the Premier! I guess shes responsible for the ice in the Strait of Belle Isle too and the impending rain and freezing temperatures after. Again...WE LIVE ON AN ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC. We need to prepare ourselves too.

  • Steve
    January 07, 2014 - 09:23

    She lied to us. People have died because of her lies and incompetence. She needs to be removed from office.

  • Ken Collis
    January 07, 2014 - 08:42

    Yet again she uses everyones misery to promote Muskrat Falls. She truely does believe we are all stupid. This whole problem is due to Nalcor and Government deciding to put money into Muskrat Falls INSTEAD of keeping our infastructure up and running. For her to announce to the whole world that she has FULL confidence in Ed Martin and Nalcor tells us a lot about either how stupid she is on this topic, or how stupid she must think we are. Due to a major flaw in our political system Dunderdale can't be fired until 2015, but Martin should get the door today. People have needlessly died or left homeless over this for God's sake.

  • Walt Disney
    January 07, 2014 - 07:42

    She's a cartoon character. Rediculous and slightly amusing because of it.

  • Kilgore Trout
    January 07, 2014 - 07:37

    What's worse than the power outages is this constant barrage of public complaining. Generally, I haven't been a supporter of this government but in this situation what exactly would you have had Dunderdale do? Go out on the poles herself? People are just looking for someone to blame and she's the easiest target.

  • Kent
    January 07, 2014 - 07:09

    Dunderdale doesn't have a clue.. Hydro and NL Power employees are going full-tilt and she shows up with her entourage looking for a photo-op. Get out of the way and let these people do their job... It seems the only who will still be in the dark after all this is over is Dunderdale.

    • CS
      January 07, 2014 - 08:38

      Did Premier Dunderdale visit any of the warming centre's for photo ops????

    • Kent
      January 07, 2014 - 17:49

      No because she wouldn't have the nerve to show her face

  • Epic Fail
    January 07, 2014 - 07:06

    Dunderdale needed to visit the crews at holyrood and sunnyside where the problems were not st johns she only did that with media in tow to get clear of the negative publicity which failed we need someone who cares more about this province in its current state.

  • Picky
    January 07, 2014 - 05:51

    Bit late now to show your face Kathy. Where we're you all weekend ? But I suppose, as you said, there is no crisis.